17 UNREAL Facts about the History of St. Petersburg!

St. Petersburg is the stunning port city in Russia that’s positioned right on the Baltic Sea. It was the imperial capital for two centuries and still remains the cultural center of Russia. It is renowned for its world-class ballet and opera, along with its many bridges and enormous art museum.

While Moscow is the most popular tourist destination in Russia, St. Petersburg really might steal your heart with a visit or with reading some fun facts! The city is often described as the “Venice of the North,” with lovely meandering canals lined with jaw-dropping palaces.

Ever since its founding in 1703, St. Petersburg has played a big role in Russian History. Let’s dive into the history of St. Petersburg together!


The History of St. Petersburg

The History of St. Petersburg

Photo credit – The Moscow Times

#1 – There’s Not Just One St. Petersburg

There are actually multiple St. Petersburgs located in the United States of America. Most well known is St. Petersburg, Florida known for its great golf courses and sparkling sunshine weather. Not exactly what you think about when you think of St. Petersburg Russia. Same name, but definitely different places!

#2 – How About Those 342 Bridges?

St. Petersburg is a city with 342 bridges. There are 12 movable bridges which are raised and lowered at specific times during the day. Too bad they can complicate a commute or a late night visit to friends! These beautiful bridges helped St. Petersburg earn the nickname, “The Venice of the North.”

#3 – Don’t Squash Me!

There is an enormous 600-ton Alexander Column in the heart of the Palace Square in St. Petersburg. It was built between 1830 and 1834 and is completely free-standing. Nothing holds it up other than its own weight! After its completion, people avoided walking near it in fear of it falling on them! The creator of the column had to walk under it every day to prove that it was safe.

MUST READ! Find out where to stay in St. Petersburg for any type of trip or budget!


History of St. Peter the Great

History of St. Peter the Great

Photo credit – saint-petersburg.com

#4 – Sharing the Throne

Peter I, also known as Peter the Great, whose full name was Pyotr Alekseyevich, ruled Russia together with his half-brother Ivan V for around 15 years. After Ivan V’s death, Peter then ruled alone for nearly 30 years. Peter was the 14th child of Tzar Alexis, so cheers to Peter for snagging the throne!

#5 – What Made Peter So Great?

Peter the Great was pretty great after all. He was a skilled diplomat who was known for getting rid of Russia’s antiquated government system and making huge strides with foreign policy. He also implemented extensive reforms to help Russia rise in power.

#6 – An Easier Alphabet Soup

As an English speaker, have you ever seen the Russian alphabet and thought: “Wow, simple and easy?” Well, apparently the alphabet used to be even more complicated! It was Peter the Great who modernized it!

Is your trip getting close? Jump over to our hotels in St. Petersburg guide so you’re sure to get great accommodation!


History of the Geography of St. Petersburg

History of the Geography of St. Petersburg

Photo credit – guidetopetersburg.com

#7 – Ship-Ship-Hooray!

Way back in the day, Tsar Peter decided to build St. Petersburg in order to connect Russia to Europe. He wanted the shipping routes to function perfectly because shipping means money which means a good economy— we get it Tsar Peter! Prior to the city being built, it was all inhospitable marshland.

#8 – The Price of A City

Since the land was uninhabitable, Tsar Peter ordered serfs to construct St. Petersburg from other cities in Russia. Most of the serfs had to trek with their own tools across hundreds of kilometers to begin work. This was an epic journey on foot that caused a great many deaths. Constructing St. Petersburg caused around 100,000 deaths!

Traveling on the cheap? We’ve made sure to find some things to do in St. Petersburg that don’t cost a cent!


History of St. Petersburg Name Change

History of St. Petersburg Name Change

Photo credit – thoughtco.com

#9 – We Are Russian! Let’s Sound More Russian!

St. Petersburg was spontaneously renamed Petrograd in 1914. Due to the anti-German climate during World War I, the city wanted to sound less German and more Russian. So all of a sudden they named themselves Petrograd for the sake of ‘Russianness’!

#10 – Not John Lennon, We’re Talking Vladimir Lenin

Then after the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, the city was renamed Leningrad in his honor. It wasn’t until 1991 that the city went back to its historical name of St. Petersburg. The name Leningrad will always be linked with communism and WWII. So, after the fall of the Soviet Union, they went back to St. Petersburg.

#11 – Okay, He’s Not That Vain

St. Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the I but he didn’t actually name the city after himself. He named the city after his patron saint, the apostle Saint Peter. He was Peter the Great, but apparently, he was also Peter the Humble too.

Want to go deeper? These great museums in St. Petersburg are perfect for learning a little more.


The Hermitage of St. Petersburg

The Hermitage of St. Petersburg

Photo credit – http://www.saint-petersburg.com

#12 – Got 10 Years On Your Hands?

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is the second largest art museum in the world! It would take 10 years to see the entire Hermitage. Got 10 years to spend looking at art? Well considering how much Netflix we all watch… maybe we do! Some estimates say that you wouldn’t need 10 years, but 25 years to actually see all the works of art at the Hermitage.

#13 – A Lot of Art

The Hermitage Museum was founded in 1764 by Empress Catherine the Great. However, the museum officially opened to the public in 1852. There are over three million items in the museum, but they don’t have the space to display all three million works of art, even in their large complex of six historic buildings. The museum also has a few exhibition centers out of the country.


The Cats of St. Petersburg

The Cats of St. Petersburg

photo credit – Tripadvisor

#14 – Cats to the Rescue

After WWII, rodents plagued the city of St. Petersburg. They apparently crawled into food stores and ate the city’s rations. Thus, the city did what a city must! They enlisted 5,000 cats to deal with the rodent problem! You’ll find two bronze cats in the eaves of the Eliseyev Emporium in honor of the cats’ heroism during the city’s time of need.

#15 – Hiring: Cats

The area around the Hermitage and the Winter Palace was always a home to many cats. However, in 2014 it became official when the Museum Director hired 50 cats to keep the rodent population under control in the museum area. Apparently, these cats have to pass tests to make the cut for the feline patrol!


The Metro System of St. Petersburg

The Metro System of St. Petersburg

Photo credit – My Portfolio

#16 – The Deepest Metro System in the World

According to the average depth of the metro stations of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Metro system is the deepest underground system in the world! The deepest metro station in the city is Admiralteyskaya, which is 86 meters (282 feet) underground.

#17 – Smart Tactics, Guys

The St. Petersburg Metro actually came up with and developed several unique construction methods that are now common in today’s underground metro systems. In 1961, they launched the first metro station to have platform screen doors. And in 1975, they pioneered the first single-vault stations. Talk about metro trailblazers!


Final Thoughts

St. Petersburg is a major historical and cultural center, as well as a crucial port city in Russia. It was built to be the “Window of Europe,” opening up Russia to Europe and beyond.

You can’t forget the city’s stunning architectural landmarks. Starting back in the early 1700s when Peter the Great (and apparently the humble too) decided it was time for St. Petersburg, the great city, to be born!

Even though we covered everything from metro stations to cats above, I can’t resist mentioning just one more fun fact.  St. Petersburg holds the record for the world’s longest ravioli— a 96 foot long ravioli filled with chicken and onion. One more for the win for St. Petersburg!

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About the Author Lily Allen-Duenas

Lily Allen-Duenas is a wandering yoga instructor, massage therapist, and reiki healer. For the last two years she’s been journeying around the world, teaching yoga on island resorts in Cambodia, surf hostels in Sri Lanka, and wellness centers in the Phillipines. Lily loves building her life around her passions, health, wellness, and travel. You can follow her journey at wildyogatribe.com or get social with her @wildyogatribe

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